Ambulance service reassures Melton residents over emergency cover
Population covered by EMAS:4.8 million peopleCalls to EMAS per day:2,500Regularity of calls to EMAS:Every 34 seconds on average
The ambulance service has strongly refuted allegations by one of its paramedics that the health of Melton patients is being endangered by crews not being based in the town.
The Melton Times reported last week that staff were no longer taking breaks at a dedicated ‘standby point’ at Phoenix House, which was adopted in January 2014 after the Leicester Road ambulance station closed.
An experienced paramedic, who declined to be named, contacted us to express concern that crews were being advised to have breaks 10 miles away at Oakham, which meant that ambulances crewed by staff without local knowledge were often being deployed to Melton emergencies from other areas of the county.
But East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) said this week that crews now rarely used Phoenix House and it was reviewing its use of the building, and its lease arrangement with landlords, Melton Council.
A spokesperson said: “East Midlands Ambulance Service is not reducing services to the people of Melton Mowbray.
“The ambulance service does not treat patients at ambulance stations or stand-by points.
“It is a mobile healthcare provider, giving care and treatment at the scene of incidents.
“The shared facility at Phoenix House is not an ambulance station or hub, and it does not contain any stock or equipment needed to deliver our service.”
EMAS say crews have been starting and finishing their shifts at Oakham ambulance station since 2014, with the option of stopping at the Nottingham Road ‘standby point’ for a hot drink or to use the toilet unless operational pressures meant they had to take a break elsewhere.
The organisation say that it deployed an ambulance crew to a 999 call from Phoenix House just twice during the six months up to March 31.
But it said it was still interested in establishing some form of base in Melton, with the spokesperson adding: “As part of a national approach to blue light organisations - police, fire and NHS ambulances - working more closely together, we remain in discussions with Melton Borough Council and our blue light partners in the area to identify opportunities potentially available to us.”
On average, EMAS says, it receives a new 999 call every 34 seconds, which means that when an ambulance crew has started their shift, it is very rare for them to return to their station until their meal break several hours later.
The organisation points out that crews would return to their base after every call in days gone by, but that is not now possible because of the number of emergencies and other call-outs they attend.
Richard Lyne, general manager of Leicestershire at EMAS, said: “We have not changed the ambulance cover in Melton but, as part of the national Ambulance Response Programme, we have increased the overall number of ambulances across Leicestershire.
“We are a mobile healthcare provider and our staff travel in ambulance vehicles to where help is needed.
“If a patient from Melton called 999, we would send the nearest, most appropriate available crew, regardless of where they started their day at work.
“We are currently in discussions to find a more appropriate, alternative base in Melton.“
Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan has this week voiced concerns about the ambulance service available to patients across the borough and the low morale of staff as reported by the paramedic who contacted us.
He has now written to EMAS chief executive Richard Henderson seeking clarity.
Sir Alan said: “I was extremely concerned to read the reports from an experienced paramedic in the Melton Times last week, and asked EMAS for a full explanation of the facts.
“Since then, I have received conflicting reports from different people within EMAS, and no straight answers.
“This is simply unacceptable.”
“I have written to the chief executive to ask for a full explanation of what has happened – local people are rightly concerned and deserve to know what’s going on.”
Melton Council, which also leases parts of Phoenix House to several other organisations, said this week it had not been informed by EMAS that it wanted to terminate its lease arrangement.